A rejuvenated and re-focused Kevin van Veen is determined to put the nightmares of last season behind him and use his first Northampton goal, scored at Carlisle United on Saturday, as a springboard for far happier times.
The Dutchman’s arrival at Northampton last season was accompanied by plenty of excitement and optimism that, given his previous record, he was the man to help steer the club away from relegation trouble under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
But he instead endured a torrid time in the second half of the campaign, hampered by injury on debut at AFC Wimbledon and subsequent loss of form, leading to some angry messages on his social media accounts from fans who felt he was not giving his all to the club’s cause.
The 27-year-old, who left play-off chasing Scunthorpe United to join Town, played through an ongoing knee injury but failed to score in any of his 10 appearances and it was thought that, following relegation to League Two, he would likely be on the move during the summer transfer window.
Van Veen remains a Cobblers player to this day, however, and having finally notched his first goal for the club with a well-taken header at Brunton Park on Saturday, he’s desperate to complete a ‘360 degree turn’ and prove himself to fans.
“When I signed here, I had a tough time,” he admitted. “I played one game and picked up a really bad injury and people didn’t know that.
“I got a lot of hate and a lot of messages on my social media, but now it’s a clean slate and a new season and I’m really hungry to get 25 goals.
“I’ve been training with this group in pre-season and I know what I can do and I’ll tell you something, I’m going to score 20 goals plus this season. It’s been a 360 degrees turn for myself and I’m going to work hard for this time and help us go for promotion.”
Van Veen demonstrated his goalscoring instincts to peg Carlisle back on Saturday when he applied both power and accuracy to find the bottom corner from Andy Williams’ floated cross.
“Andy chipped the ball into the box and as a striker that’s lovely because you just anticipate as to where the ball will come and personally I thought I headed it in well,” he said.
I know what I can do and I’ll tell you something, I’m going to score 20 goals this season. It’s been a 360 degrees turn for myself and I’m going to work hard for this team and help us go for promotion.
“It was a good time to score because we were 1-0 behind. If we can stop the type of goals we conceded then the team we’ve got can create so much, but we made some silly mistakes.
“It was a good goal from us and I think the second goal was also a good footballing goal and (Matt) Crooksy was on the end of it.”
Despite his goal and the more-than-respectable point gained at Brunton Park, van Veen was disappointed not to be heading home with all three after Hallam Hope swiftly cancelled out Matt Crooks’ neat finish in the second-half.
“Personally I’m a bit frustrated because I thought we could have won the game but we didn’t really turn up and I feel we’re much better than we showed,” added the 27-year-old.
“At the end of day, it’s a point away from home and we need to stay positive. We are a much better team than we showed on Saturday so if we just keep working hard then the points will come because we’re a good team.
See Thursday’s Chronicle & Echo for the full interview with Kevin van Veen.